Colorado is facing strong headwinds as we look to develop the state’s workforce of the future. Experts predict that by 2020, 74 percent of all the jobs in this state will require a college degree or some kind of post-secondary technical training.
If Colorado is going to develop that next generation of talent from within — which most leaders in business, politics and education agree is the goal — then much of the work of growing and building that workforce is going to fall to the state’s education system. It’s a daunting task and, according to the Lumina Foundation, we are not on pace to meet the goal.
Simply put, we must improve the pipeline of students coming out of the education system if we’re going to meet Colorado’s 21st century workforce needs. That’s why I join with many of my colleagues from across Colorado and within higher education to support the Common Core for K-12, a new set of education standards for what students should know and are able to do at each grade level.
At the national level, Common Core has been endorsed by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, The Association of Governing Boards, Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the National Association of System Heads.
Across the country, universities are facing the challenge of admitting bright young students who are not prepared to succeed in college. Too often, a student’s time and money — along with taxpayer support — must go toward bringing the student up to the academic place where he or she should have been before graduating from high school.
Four out of 10 freshmen who start college in Colorado require some level of remediation, according to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Lack of preparation is most severe in math, and the need for remediation is higher among minority students. The data also show that students who need large amounts of remedial education are more likely to drop out. This leaves the student with the worst possible outcome: debt but no college degree.
Confronting this problem must start with implementing Common Core. This set of standards will motivate individual school districts to develop curriculum and train teachers to set the achievement bar higher and ensure every student clears it. This will help guarantee that Colorado students who choose to attend college or university will be well-prepared and need less or no remediation.
If colleges and universities have more details about where students are starting academically, then they can do a better job of making sure that they have the resources and support needed to see them through to a successful graduation. A successful graduation leads to better jobs and a stronger workforce. A stronger workforce leads to a stronger economy for Colorado.
Adopting Common Core is a critical first step for Colorado to meet its workforce and leadership needs in the future. We in higher education must do our part, too, in the development of a highly skilled labor force, and that starts with ensuring that the students we admit from Colorado high schools are ready to learn and succeed. At the end of the day, Common Core is central to fundamental improvement in Colorado education at all levels and for all students.